Friday, September 18, 2009

Heading Home

The Midwest in early autumn is stunning…large ‘quilts’ of wheat and cornfields, grey in the northern skies and sunshine to their south…one can easily see the edge of the horizon.

Up early, we headed from Minnesota to Wisconsin and on to Chicago. Definitely a city of wonder! The city was celebrating Oprah’s 25 years on TV, and runners were warming up for the next day’s marathon…the city was packed.

Not to worry with Eric at the wheel. Drive by ‘touring’ took us up and down Lakes Shore Drive, window shopping along the Miracle Mile (…Eric’s favorite kind of shopping…) gaping at the dramatic architecture, and listening to Celtic pipes and drums at the Irish celebration. The 'drive by' created a ‘we will return’ list for a future weekend.

Leaving Chicago, we headed to another football town - South Bend, Indiana. In the fall, college football draws crowds of all ages…and yet, this weekend, Notre Dame was playing Michigan in Ann Arbor – so a good time for our ‘look about’.

From Indiana, we crossed Ohio – with a quick stop in Cleveland for a second visit to Little Italy and its community bocce center – and on to New York State. ‘The horses were heading’ to the stable…as we zipped east.

Our last morning on the road was crystal clear and cool. The Adirondacks beckoned as we headed to Vermont. Small towns and ‘summer’ villages were quiet as lakes, streams and canals cascaded behind us . Upstate, the Hudson River is a mere rivulet in comparison to its ‘Manhattan’ identity.

What a gift our trip has been. Time together, time with dear friends, and opportunities to meet good folk along the road and to realize and see the vast and varying beauty and resources of the United States and Canada. The world seems deeply challenged at this time, and yet in its midst, there is so very much to celebrate.

We have delighted in sharing our trip with you and so enjoyed your feedback. Many many thanks. It's good to be home.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It's a Straight Line East

Up early in Wyoming, we headed east. The highway defines 'straight' as it meets and extends beyond the horizon. Our first destination was Mt. Rushmore - where Gutzon Borgiun, the son of Danish immigrants transformed cliffs of stone into 60 ft. monuments to Jefferson, Washington, T.R. Roosevelt and Lincoln.

Equally or perhaps even more impressive were the stark Badlands. The scenic loop at sunset was a delight of stark caverns, high pillars and prairie dogs! We loved it.

The next day, we continued 'straight'...and on to South Dakota. Farmlands ribboned forward...corn and wheat...and we stopped in Mitchell to visit the Corn Palace...first built in 1892 to celebrate corn...and each following year the building's facades and interior are redecorated in varieties of corn to celebrate the region and the nation. Each scene is designed, planned and ‘hammered’ into place with strips of kernels. And in nearby Blue Earth, there is a 60 ft. statue of the Green Giant…who looked even happier than he does on a can of peas.

East of La Crosse, Wisconsin, we stopped for the evening. The recommendation of a 'fish fry' at the local restaurant capped the evening.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cody and the Big Horn Basin

Wednesday in western introduction to Buffalo Bill, miles through ranch country, red cliffs, high altitudes in the Big Horn National Park...and descents to scenes where ranching and farming combine. The song from Oklahoma..."The Farmers and the Cowboys Can't Be Friends" came to mind as we saw arid lands dotted with irrigated farmlands. No wonder the dispute led to a shootout between small settling ranchers and larger ranching neighbors in 1892. Thank heavens for the US Cavalry.

The Buffalo Bill Museum is a treasure of art, artifacts, exhibits, and sound and light clips. Paintings by N.C. Wyeth and Frederick Remington's sculptures capture the history and emotion of the West's past. A recreation of Remington's studio - originally in New Rochelle, NY - makes clear his iconic and eclectic approach to art and life. Eric loved the teepees that greet visitors.

Leaving Cody, we zipped along at 75 mph....In the evening, we tucked into a log cabin in Buffalo, Wyoming. The night sky - blues and pinks - made clear that ahead was another day of possibilities.

Scenic West in Wyoming

Sunny cloudless skies made our drive through the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone picture perfect. Eric's Golden Age Pass -$10- covers entry fees throughout the United States and makes our park visits not a bargain but a wonderful gift from our Government!

Stops at the Jackson Lodge for lunch were super photo opps...and on to Yellowstone. Again, highway crews were hard at work...yet the dust increased the 'Wild West' flavor. Deep canyons, towering fir trees, and Yellowstone Lake led us north and west towards Cody. As we left the park, fir trees disappeared and red rock cliffs began to tower. Ranches dot the arid landscapes.

Later in Cody, we walked about the town...saloons, cowboy boots and hats, and cigarettes make it clear we're not Back East.

This morning we're off to Buffalo Bill's Museum. More later...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Potatoes, Trout & Rich Scenery

To Eric, a spud lover, Idaho is precious soil. His baked potato at dinner in Idaho Falls met his highest expectations.

The next morning we followed the Snake River north to Jackson. Farmlands stretched to the mountain bases and around us we clearly saw what is meant by large scale farming. Lines of irrigation 'spiders' moved across the rich green fields. We drove on to Jackson through small towns and passed local establishments...a favorite being "Jake's Midnight Taxidermy".

Jackson is a funky town that combines unadorned Old West and uptown restaurants and retail. The afternoon was fishing time in the Grand Tetons National Park. Eric's catch from the Snake River led to a wonderful dinner of cut throat trout.

Off to check out Yellowstone National Park and on to Buffalo Bill in Cody, Wyoming today.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Go-to- the-Sun- Highway" and on to Idaho

Friday morning, we headed south to Whitefish and Kalispell, Montana. Topography became dramatic as we continued through Glacier National Park into Montana. Peaks soared above the Salmon River - evidence of the changing glacial action years ago.

An early morning breakfast at a mountain cafe 'stoked' us for the day and off we went over narrow mountain roads. Highway crews at this altitude win huge respect! Fishing streams tempted Eric and it was easy to linger along the edges of Lake McDonald as we continued south. Down from the mountains, we popped into the Whitefish, Montana library for an internet catch up before an explore of this striking ski region.

In the morning, we headed to Sun Valley. The Sawtooth Scenic Byway is an eye-popping drive that requires frequent stops along the way. However, too many stops create a late arrival on Labor Day weekend...and a 'where to stay?' moment. Happily, Eric found a late 'condo' cancellation that was a treat.

In the morning, we attended St. Thomas's Church in Ketchum before a full explore of the Sun Valley Inn and Lodge where Helen's sister Florence waitressed as a college student 'a bit ago'.

Leaving Sun Valley we drove east. The arc of the Snake River revealed the Craters of the Moon. Who knew that the largest area of balsamic rocks in the continental United States extends far across Idaho - after volcanoes erupted thousands of years ago. Traveling on we passed through 70 miles of desert flatlands that also served as nuclear development sites.

Tonight in Idaho Falls and tomorrow off to the Grand Tetons.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Banff and on to Waterton

Tuesday in Banff was a banner day. Our mountain cabin provided all one needed and Sally and Bob joined us for the day...and led us to spots we never would have seen...a hike towards Stewart Canyon, a visit to the Whyte Museum which traces the impact of the Luxton family on Banff's growth...(Norman recovered and settled in Banff after traveling towards Australia in a dugout canoe retrofitted to sail. Overboard in Fiji Coral Reefs sent him back to Banff to recover from coral poisoning...but the diaries and photos are so conversational that 'years between' his arrival disappear. In the evening, we shared a 'blackout dinner' at a hostel bistro where a thunderous lightning storm had cut the power.

In the morning we headed across prairies south to Waterton and Glacier National Park. We were happy to secure a campsite with mountain vistas, lapping waterfalls, and close by grazing deers. A candlelight supper and full moon created perfect 'tenting' conditions.

Thursday morning, we were up early for coffee and 'internet' and booking an afternoon cruise down the 7 mile lake. At one, we boarded, and enjoyed the dramatic scenery of the international Peace Park as we crossed the border between Canada and the United States.

A quick visit to the Prince of Wales Hotel - at the head of the lake - was cut short by threatening skies. We scurried back to the campsite to find skies clearing and our tent site secure. It was time for a 'cuppa' in our folding aluminum chairs in perfect weather conditions..

Without warning, a fierce wind blew down the lake, whipped off the tent stakes and sent the tent, all of its contents including the air mattress, Eric and his chair 50 feet up and foward. Helen was dashed to the side. Fortunately, the 'flight path' was clear but Eric landed elbow, chest and knee down onto a cement slab. Wonderful Canadians rushed out of their 'rigs' to help us.

Time was definitely needed for the McFs to 'figure out' what happened. Eric was badly dazed and stunned and yet somehow recognized the next steps...strike the tent, find a motel and regroup. As he went to find night's lodging, Canadian 'angels' helped Helen find, clear, and repack the airborne contents. Such instant rescue verified the full power of caring. A 'very bruised but not broken' diagnosis by the local EMTs cheered our spirits.

In the morning, we returned to thank these good folk before heading to the US border. The day's drive through Glacier National Park was picture perfect. Colored stones glistened in mountain streams as peak after peak rose by dramatically.

Our day ended in Kalispell, longer tenting and tucked into a Travel Lodge. We are very blessed and grateful to be here.